One of the earliest reports of the Valley details a fight which lent place names to much of the local geography. "Battle Mountain," "Battle Creek" "Battle Lake" and "Squaw Mountain." Trapper Henry Fraeb led a group of thirty-two trappers and encamped near where Battle Creek runs into the Little Snake. On August 28, 1841, Arapahoe and Sioux attacked Fraebís encampment. The ensuing battle, which lasted over several days, led to the deaths of many Indians and trappers. Fraeb died in the conflict, leading Jim Baker to call him "The ugliest dead man Iíve ever seenÖ and Iíve seen a good many."
Battle Lake - Just North of the Ranch
Mountain man John Hatcher had a cabin not far from the confluence of Battle Creek and the Little Snake, and it was he who brought his partner John, or Jeramiah, Johnson to the country in the late 1840ís. Johnsonís Flathead Indian wife, who was pregnant at the time, was murdered by Crow Indians. Johnson vowed vengeance, and for many years hunted, killed and ate the livers of men of that tribe. He became known as "Crow-Killer" or "Liver Eating" Johnson.
The Cherokee Trail lies just north of the valley, intersecting the river and continuing on to the west. Some forty miles west of Baggs (and 65 miles west of the home ranch) the Trail follows Powder Rim, and drops down to Lower Powder Springs. These natural springs lie ten miles west of where the Little Snake turns south to join the Yampa, and are the last natural water for almost a hundred miles. This was a route followed by the Cherokee as they headed to California for the Gold Rush, and by drovers who moved cattle from east to west to feed the miners and settlers.
Lower Powder Springs was homesteaded by Wild Bunch member Matt Rash. It is now the western-most part of the private lands owned by the Ladder Ranch. It is still a key watering hole for livestock and wildlife in the area. Indian petroglyphs are found in the rugged hills not far from the Springs.
The Powder Wash country is some of the wintering grounds for Ladder sheep, and a hardy band of cattle run there year-round. The headquarters there are at Powder Flat, which was homesteaded by pioneer Wiff Wilson in about 1916. Babe and Etta McCarger lived there in the thirties and added a basement and a bedroom onto the homestead cabin.
Salisbury Livestock acquired the Powder Flat pasture in 1976, and Pat and Sharon OíToole lived there eight winters, tending their sheep and the Salisbury Livestock cows.
The Chivington Place is part of the Powder Wash country owned by the family. It was homesteaded by "Doc" Chivington, nephew of the infamous Colonel John Chivington. Chivingtonís job was to guard the "deadline"óthe Colorado-Wyoming state line. He was to keep Wyoming sheep from crossing into what the cattlemen considered their territory in Colorado.
While the Chivington Place was recently acquired, the Battle Creek property has been in the family almost from the beginning.